Tuesday, May 16, 2006

May meeting of Tarentum Borough Council clarifies and mystifies

On Monday evening, May 16, 2006 at 6:30 PM the Tarentum Borough Council held its regular monthly meeting. All the members of the council were present, along with approximately forty citizens present to observe and give comments.

The meeting was two hours and fifty minutes long, (My Tarentum readers will recognize this as a long meeting for our Borough Council. My Pittsburgh Presbytery readers - pros at handling long meetings - will recognize this as almost as long as a short presbytery meeting.) Citizen comments filled the first hour of the meeting.

One of the issues clarified at the meeting was the purpose of the executive session held on April 17. (my blog here, here, and here; VND here and editorial here) The issue first arose in this meeting at the time when the Council was voting on one of the most important actions it would take - to approve the minutes of the previous meeting. The minutes first circulated to the Council members acknowledged that Councilwoman Newcomer had stated the meeting was for a personal matter. In fact, the council considered personnel matters, among other things. The motion to approve the minutes included a correction to the purpose of the executive session to indicate that it was for personnel matters.

Citizens asked Council President Newcomer what she planned to do to rectify the Council's violation of the Sunshine Act, and what she knew and was intending to do in the executive session on April 17. Solicitor Strellec explained that the Council had not adjourned before the executive session and the public could have stayed until the executive session was over. Solicitor Strellec acknowledged that people do misspeak, and stated that the minutes can be corrected to reflect what was intended rather than what was actually said. Councilwoman Newcomer refused to disclose what intentions had been in her mind before the executive session.

There were also issues concerning the retirement of Borough Manager Jeffrey Thomas. Apparently there had been a move afoot by the Administrative and Employee Relations Committee to lay him off as early as last Friday. One citizen spoke at length about the possible increase in the cost of unemployment compensation to the Borough. If there were a layoff the bill for the next three years would be an increased percentage (perhaps tripled) of the total payroll of the borough. No reasons were ever offered for the potential layoff, which apparently came to light only after Mr. Thomas submitted his letter of intention to retire. The motion to lay off the borough manager was withdrawn before it ever came to a vote.

In light of Mr. Thomas' retirement, the Council voted to advertize for the position of Borough Secretary, and will begin the process of passing an ordinance to eliminate the position of Borough Manager.

There were a number of citizen comments with concerns about garbage pickup, the "Pride in Tarentum" revitalization process, the Christmas parade, an unpaid bill owed by the borough, requests for more parking downtown, the development of the Keystone Opportunity Zone, and the dredging of Bull Creek.

In the Finance Committee report there were a number of questions about the use of money. The Council adopted a motion that all purchases will be by purchase order and accompanied by the original receipt.

The Council adopted new ordinances on fines for parking tickets and excessive police calls. A proposed ordinance on the regulation of apartment dwellings has been held up for further work and review

The schedule of Wednesday summer concerts in Riverview Park was announced:
  • June 21, Gas House Annie
  • July 12, Lilly Abreu
  • July 19, Chromatics
  • August 2, Curt Marino
  • August 17, a karaoke contest
The Council discussed ways to address the need for rain locations for any of these concerts. Finding alternate locations in case of rain will be the Council's responsibility.

For those who think that Tarentum Council meetings are all about a legendary feud between council members Magnetta and Sopcak, take note that during this meeting Councilman Magnetta made a motion to have the solicitor send a letter to Highlands Little League laying out the conditions for their work on the field house at Dreshar Stadium. Councilwoman Sopcak seconded the motion, and it was adopted unanimously.

The meeting adjourned at 9:20, in time for Councilman Rossey, and perhaps a few others, to catch at least the second half of The Apprentice.

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Anonymous said...

Oh for crying out loud. Were people able to stifle their laughter during that "explanation?"

Stewart said...

The observers were well behaved, and disappointed that the Council did not intend to do anything to rectify their actions beyond what was done.